Smithsonian Air and Space Museum – Dulles Airport

On Father’s day weekend my son surprised me with a visit, all the way from Orlando.  Quite a shock to come in from Laser racing at WRSC and see him and his fiance sitting at the dining table with Mrs. CapnRehab!

So I put aside all my work plans and just had fun.  One of the places we went was the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA.

It is an amazing place full of all the planes the Smithsonian Museum downtown in Washington DC doesn’t have room for. It’s also the place where they restore planes, and you can see the work areas from a big observation deck. If you come to Washington DC for vacation or to visit, I recommend that you try to fit this place into your schedule and give it a full day to really give it justice.

They have tours that start frequently and a very knowledgeable guide will take you around and talk about the different planes. Our guide was so knowledgeable because they have to take continuing education classes and also get tested every year. He talked about approximately 60 planes but there are way way more planes there than that.  He was very informative and made the tour very interesting. Much more interesting that had we just walked around and looked at planes.

tour guide was good

tour guide was good

Some really famous planes are there too. Perhaps the most famous plane there (although there was some steep competition) was the the “Enola Gay”. This is the actual plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima to help end World War II. The outside has been meticulously restored to its original condition.

I just read “Flags of Our Fathers” about the invasion of Iwo Jima and how difficult it was. 6,821 US and 18,844 Japanese soldiers died on one little island a little more than 3 miles wide.  It was the final island to be taken before the planned invasion of Japan.  If we had invaded Japan those numbers would have been minor compared to the carnage that would follow. I also read “Unbroken” which you saw a review of here a little while back, also about World War II. Having that background made seeing this plane a little more meaningful for me.

Enola Gay dropped the atomic bomb

The first plane you see as you walk in the door is the SR 71 blackbird spy plane. The tour guide told a story about how once the plane is flying it heats and expands by 9 inches so it was designed to be loose when it’s on the ground, and that means it actually leaks fuel. So they would only fill it enough to get it off the ground and then it would have to go to an air tanker right away to get a fill up.

SR-71 Spy Plane

SR-71 Spy Plane

Another great plane from my childhood is the worlds first super sonic airliner – the Concorde. It could go from London to New York in just a few hours -, not anymore.

Concord

Concorde Supersonic airliner

Last but certainly not least is the space shuttle discovery. This is an actual spaceship that has gone into space and returned. The whole hanger there is dedicated to space exploration and I saw several projects that I’ve worked on through NASA. Pretty amazing!

Oh, and don’t forget the selfie!

Space Shuttle

Space Shuttle

Okay, it’s not really a selfie. MrsCapnRehab took it. 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Smithsonian Air and Space Museum – Dulles Airport

  1. [Correction:  I wrote this post the late at night and was focused more on getting the post done and adding the pictures than checking my facts.  I threw in this bit about WW II without doing any fact checking and got the “Flags of our Father’s” invaded island completely wrong and the casualty figures slightly wrong.  When the stupid cat woke me up at 4:30am it suddenly came to me that I posted wrong info.  I apologize to those 6 people that read it before I corrected it. Sorry]

    [Editor’s note:  OK, so I don’t exist, but if I did I would have caught this error]

    [Author’s note: You’re pretty snooty for someone that doesn’t exist.]

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